For the second consecutive September, the Dallas Cowboys have made a Week 1 statement with a win over the division-rival New York Giants. But that upset victory at MetLife Stadium wasn't enough to get the Cowboys over the NFC East hump one year ago, partly because they couldn't build off of it.
In Week 2, Dallas fell flat on its face against the Seattle Seahawks, losing 27-7 in a physical beatdown. It was demoralizing, and it kicked off a trend where by the 'Boys continually failed to string wins together. They couldn't follow up a victory with a victory until mid-November.
That's what makes this week's matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs so important. You might want to call it a trap game, because the Cowboys are coming off a huge win and the unfamiliar Chiefs had the NFL's worst record last year.
I think Dallas knows it would be silly to overlook at the Chiefs, who sent six starters to the Pro Bowl despite a 2-14 showing last year and who entered 2013 with 30 new players, a new head coach, a new quarterback and a relatively healthy look and feel.
That new coach is Andy Reid, who is much more familiar with the Cowboys than the Cowboys are with his revamped team. While coaching the Eagles between from 1999 to 2012, Reid went 17-11 against this Dallas team, outscoring it by an average of 7.4 points per meeting.
So while the 'Boys might be doing everything in their power to avoid getting trapped on Sunday, this is still a very dangerous spot for them.
Arrowhead Field is in general. Since the turn of the century, Kansas City has generally been mediocre. The Chiefs have posted a .428 winning percentage while making the playoffs on only three occasions. But they've managed to put together a .519 winning percentage at home.
Arrowhead is loud and intimidating. In fact, in that respect, it's a lot like Seattle, where the Cowboys were manhandled one year ago this weekend. Two years ago, Kansas City went 7-1 at home and only 3-5 on the road.
"This is going to be a very difficult defense to go against in the environment that we’re going to be in," said quarterback Tony Romo this week, per Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com. "Of our opening five, six games, this could be the toughest, with the environment and the problems they do defensively and their scheme. This will be a very difficult game to go in and execute at a high level."
Romo is dealing with bruised ribs. He'll go up against a Chiefs defense that had six sacks and 20 pressures against Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne and the Jaguars last Sunday.
But if the Cowboys are going to change the way they're viewed by the rest of the league, this is their chance. This kicks off a three-game stretch against teams that had losing records in 2012, but two of those matchups—Sunday in Kansas City and Week 4 in San Diego—will be on the road.
Since the start of 2010, Dallas is 5-6 away from home against teams that finished with losing records. The Cowboys haven't made the playoffs during that stretch, and everyone in the NFC East has fared better than they have in those types of games.
The window is open for them to finally gain some breathing room early. The Redskins and Giants are both underdogs against superior teams this week and are looking 0-2 directly in the eye. The Eagles are off to a great start, but there's still a lot to be determined there.
It's time for the Cowboys to shake that Jekyll/Hyde reputation in order to break from a life of .500 football. If this team has truly improved and turned a corner, we'll know on Sunday at Arrowhead.
But if the 'Boys slip up in KC, they'll justifiably be facing the same questions they dealt with last year. And the year before that. And the year before that.